Monday, 3 March 2008

Montague Phillips: Hillside Melody Op.40

Montague Phillips was better known for his light opera The Rebel Maid. However, he did write a deal of music for the orchestra, including both ‘light’ and ‘serious’ pieces. One of the more attractive of these is The Hillside Melody which is a fine example a ‘light’ tone poem.
One cannot help feeling that this score could have been written for, or perhaps fitted round a film score. In particular I can imagine one of the British Transport Film group’s offerings encouraging people to get out of the City and take a trip to the Home Counties. It is not too fanciful to see musical images of places like Leith Hill and the Surrey hills. The score exudes country things – perhaps sports or maybe just a ramble in the woods. Here a Green Line bus arrives from the city and perchance a horse and rider are making their way along a rather secret bridleway. Or maybe two lovers are walking arm in arm beside a clear river.
It is easy to say that Phillips was influenced by Percy Grainger in some of his music: and of course Fred. Delius is never too far away. But this work was not written for the highbrow concert hall – it was composed for smaller ensembles playing music at the end of the pier or perhaps the bandstand.
Yet although the pictures invoked are quite definitely South of England there is an Irish touch in this music. A friend of mine remarked that she could hear allusions to the Londonderry Air in some passages of this work. However it does not pay to get too engrossed in trying to unpick references and sources in a piece like this. It is sufficient to note that it is a satisfying work that conjures up a number of happy images in the mind’s eye. Who can ask for much more than this?

No comments: